By Craig Stewart
Travelers who take the I-295 Bypass around Richmond, Virginia know Exit 9B—numerous gas stations, fast food restaurants, and quick stop stores. After years of trekking between Alexandria and North Carolina, my family and I know these spots by heart.
Recently returning home from a UNC basketball game, my son and I stopped at Denny’s on Exit 9B for dinner. I was tired and inwardly fretting about a Tar Heel loss, the economy, college tuition, gas prices…and then I saw them.
Three booths away from us sat a uniformed Army sergeant and her children. The kids were well-mannered and seemed to be enjoying their meal. I remembered that Ft. Lee was nearby and began thinking about this family. Where was the father? Was he in the Army too? Deployed? Maybe the sergeant had been so busy with her duties recently that she asked for this Mom’s night out with her children and left Dad at home? Maybe she had just returned from Iraq or Afghanistan?
I didn’t want to intrude, but I was proud to be seated near them. My worries and struggles seemed small compared to what so many military families face every day. They deal with challenges on the home front in ways that most civilians do not understand or appreciate. Finding a new home…packing and moving…leaving grandparents and friends…registering for new schools…registering cars…finding a new place of worship…finding a new temporary job…worrying about loved ones who are deployed…and a thousand other details. Often military spouses have to handle these chores alone. Money is always tight.
I said a short prayer for this Army family in Denny’s, quietly paid their bill when we left ahead of them, and headed back to my comfortable life. It was the least I could do.
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